Things You Never Knew About Jill Biden

When Joe Biden was elected president, his wife Jill was not about to sit idly by and just play the role of first lady. With a dedicated career in education, Jill faced a lot of scrutiny upon becoming America's first lady, made even pickier by an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal about her using the Dr. title — which was bizarre, as a lot of people use the title professionally if they have a doctorate. Lauren A. Wright of The Washington Post wrote that critics are harshest of the first lady when she doesn't placate her "prescribed subordinate roles."

Wright mentioned one such strong first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, who was plagued by critics for her fierce independence. "Eleanor Roosevelt faced confrontations with journalists and even her husband, who requested that she stop teaching at the Todhunter School and resign her positions at the Democratic National Committee and the League of Women Voters once he was elected," Wright wrote. It's obvious that, like Eleanor, Jill is not the demure president's wife who will lose herself in her husband's shadow. Here is a list highlighting some of Jill's bold, brilliant, and sometimes princely history.

She pulls no punches — literally

Jill Biden might look like the sweet teacher we all wish we'd had at some point in our schooling careers, but she's also tough. She even walked a heckler out of a Joe Biden rally in February 2020. Less than a month later, she blocked a protestor who charged the stage at a rally in Los Angeles. When The Philadelphia Inquirer brought up the protestor encounter, Biden replied, "I'm a good Philly girl." She told the outlet that she loves Philadelphia because the city's people "are really resilient. It's a city with a lot of grit."

Gritty is something Jill Biden has always been. She made that clear at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in 2020 when she talked about handling her little sister's school bully. Biden recalled that when she discovered a boy at school was bullying her sister, she went to his home, then "punched him right in the face" (via Vox.) That sister she defended, Bonny Jacobs, told The Philadelphia Inquirer, "[Jill] took care of me. She was there if I needed her."

The life and style of Jill Biden

"I attended community college in Pennsylvania with the goal of studying fashion merchandising, but I discovered that I didn't really like it, so I dropped out," Jill Biden explained to Roadtrip Nation. Maybe her interest in fashion is what prompted her office to announce in March 2021 that they would not be commenting on her clothes, or perhaps she didn't want to discuss her style at all.

Professor Myra Gutin, who wrote "The President's Partner: The First Lady in the Twentieth Century," discussed the issue with Insider: "Every first lady gets into the crosshairs of the fashionistas. Everybody is looking at her clothes. Even if you don't give a hang about it, you're still going to be analyzed and criticized, and the question will be raised if you're trying to send any message. I think she's saying that she wants us to pay attention to what she's doing, to more substantive aspects of the office of first lady." 

Whatever inspired her decision to not talk about her clothing choices, Biden likely has more reasons than we think for making that decision. After all, she's re-wearing pieces and was even working words like "vote" and "love" into her wardrobe, according to Vogue. The first lady knows what she's doing.

Jill Biden's modeling days

It was a very small portion of her life, but there was a point in Jill Biden's timeline where she did modeling work. She told Vogue in 2008 that she modeled with an agency in Wilmington. "I might've done five jobs where you get paid, like, 20 bucks," she said. "But I wasn't a model." Considering herself a model or not, one of those pieces she did caught the eye of her future husband Joe Biden. She told Vogue that Joe saw her bus shelter ad and knew he needed to find her. Through some finagling, Joe managed to get Jill's number by asking his brother Frankie, who then asked a friend for it.

When Joe got that number and called Jill, her answer was iconic. She posted on Twitter that the first words she ever said to him in 1975 were: "How did you get this number?" In a video made for the 2020 DNC, Jill recounted that, when Joe called her, she was actually primping for a date with someone else (via Harpers Bazaar.) She decided to cancel those plans and go out with Joe instead. In that same video, Joe said, "when I met Jill, I fell in love with her when I saw her." (Joe lost his first wife Neilia and their baby Naomi in 1972 in a tragic car accident.)

Previously married, she felt like 'a failure'

In the midst of the 2020 presidential election, Bill Stevenson told the Daily Mail in August 2020 that his former wife Jill Biden cheated on him with the presidential hopeful. He told the outlet that he had a book ready to go for publishing. Noting that he didn't "want to hurt anyone" or "harm Jill's chances of becoming first lady," Stevenson added, "I considered Joe a friend. I'm not surprised he fell in love with Jill. Everyone who meets Jill falls in love with her immediately."

On "The Kelly Clarkson Show" in February 2021, Jill Biden opened up to Clarkson, who filed for her own divorce in June 2020. Biden said she recognized that "if I hadn't gotten divorced, I never would've met Joe," which pushed back against her ex-husband's narrative from months earlier. She also said she had a lot of negative feelings about herself following the divorce. "I didn't know anybody who had been divorced. I felt like it was a failure on my part" (via the New York Post).

Biden denied her ex's accusations via her spokesperson, who issued a statement to Inside Edition. The statement called the claims "fictitious" and characterized them as a means for Stevenson to market his book. In July 2021, Stevenson came forward and said he'd had an affair with Robert Durst's wife Kathie only days before she disappeared.

Joe Biden endured Jill's hard-to-get nature

Even though their dating story is so romantic, Jill Biden was not desperate to marry Joe Biden. In fact, she didn't want to get married at all again for a long time. In an essay she penned for TIME in 2019, Jill explained in exquisite detail the journey it took for Joe to finally get her to change her mind about marriage. "After the disappointment of my divorce, I never wanted to feel so out of control of my heart again," she wrote. "...I knew that it was harder to unite two lives than I had imagined growing up. I knew that relationships could be fragile." It took Joe five proposals before Jill finally said "yes." She wrote that she knew she was "already a family" with Joe, Hunter, and Beau, and she wanted to be with them forever.

The first lady told Vogue in 2016 that a big piece of her hesitation wasn't even about her own relationship with marriage, but about Joe's sons. The boys had already tragically lost one mother and she didn't want to put them through that kind of pain again. And when Jill and Joe Biden got hitched on June 17, 1977, Beau and Hunter stood at the altar with them — a clear sign that the family was in this marriage together (per Vogue.)

Her grandmother inspired her to teach

Speaking at the 2020 and 2021 State and National Teacher of the Year Ceremony, Jill Biden said: "We all have a moment when our story began — or a person who set us on this path. Mine is my grandmother" (via People). She explained that her grandmother's love of teaching inspired her "to help kids see their world in a different way." Biden even inherited her grandmother's brass school bell after she passed away. The heirloom reminds her that teachers change lives. "I think of every student [my grandmother] taught, and wonder what amazing things they grew up to do," she added later in her speech.

Jill Biden teaches writing and English at Northern Virginia Community College, where she has worked since 2009, according to Insight into Diversity. Biden holds two master's degrees as well as a doctorate in education and is three decades into her career. Her work as a professor helps inform her stance on community colleges; she calls them "America's best kept secret" (via Twitter). Education is something that Biden is extremely passionate about. "As I've always said, teaching isn't just what I do. It's who I am," she tweeted.

One of Jill Biden's biggests firsts

When Joe Biden became the 46th President of the United States, his wife Jill Biden was not going to let her career come to a screeching halt. That is how she became the first presidential spouse ever "to maintain an independent career outside of the White House" during a partner's presidency (via The White House site). 

Biden's work as an emissary between educators and the administration is monumental, while her public image is an inspiration. "It would be a real modernizing of the first ladyship ... to have the president's spouse live the kind of life that the majority of women live, which is working outside the home professionally," professor Katherine Jellison, first ladies expert, told Politico.

Biden maintaining her job and her role as first lady creates a different kind of future not just for herself, but for other presidential and political spouses — 47% of America's labor force was made of up women in 2019, so having someone understand teaching for a living will be influential in political matters (via NPR). The educator told Vogue in September 2020 that she believed she could prioritize her career while still doing "everything else that first ladies want to do." She told the magazine, "Like so many of your readers, I'm a working woman. [Teaching is] my passion. That's what I love doing."

It seems she is quite the prankster

In a video presentation at the DNC in 2020, Joe and Jill Biden's granddaughter Naomi told viewers that her grandmother had a penchant for playing jokes on people (via ELLE). "She's a prankster, she's very mischievous. When she goes on a run, sometimes she'll find, like, a dead snake and she'll pick it up and put it in a bag, and she'll use it to scare someone."

On Air Force Two, Biden once shoved herself in an overhead bin and scared the daylights out of the first person to open it, she revealed in her memoir, "Where the Light Enters: Building a Family, Discovering Myself." Her family growing up loved April Fools' Day and were notorious pranksters, which is where she got her mischievous side. On April 1, 2021, she donned a black wig and name tag that said "Jasmine" before handing out ice cream on a flight for members of the media and her staff, per NBC News. Her dress-up prank managed to go unnoticed before she came back without her disguise. The outlet said she fooled even her staff members.

In her memoir, Biden explained the other reason she loves pranks. "I've always believed you've got to steal the joyful moments when you can. Life is difficult, and if you sit around waiting for fun to show up, you'll find yourself going without it more often than not."

How the first lady's Secret Service work

Being first lady, second lady, and a senator's wife, Jill Biden has gotten used to the workarounds she has to do to maintain some normalcy in her life. Part of that, especially now in Joe Biden's presidency and formerly in his vice presidency, has meant having constant guard, even at her job. Her solution? Have the Secret Service appear like students at their school posts. Per Politico, the agents were "dressed like college students" and "carried backpacks to blend in when she was on campus," even when Biden was second lady. So she's got this sort-of casual routine down by now.

Biden's students refer to her as "Dr. B," and she has always wanted to keep a regular kind of teaching life amid in her husband's political aspirations. That hasn't changed. One of her former students, Karolina Straznikiewicz, told The Guardian in November 2020 that she was racking her brain trying to think of why she knew her teacher during their first class together. "My brain was telling me that it's so impossible that a second lady of the United States would teach in a community college around here ... I am pretty sure that a lot of the students in the classroom had no idea who she was until the end of the semester." Once Joe Biden won the election, there was no way her identity was going back under the radar.

Prince Harry and Jill Biden are apparently friends

During the 2016 Invictus Games, an international sporting event for injured, sick, or wounded service persons, Joe Biden made a speech. He joked, "Jill went to London for the last Games. She spent too much damn time with Prince Harry!" (per the Daily Mail.) The fact is, Jill Biden and Harry have been friends and colleagues for years. They've hosted events together, especially around service members or veterans, groups they're both passionate about supporting. At the 2021 virtual Warrior Games, Jill Biden addressed Harry: "You live by a simple principle: Serve together, recover together. It's a philosophy not limited by the flag you wear. ... You've dedicated your time, talents, and heart to lifting up service members from around the globe."

As a veteran, Harry is interested in helping his fellow service members. He served the British army for a decade and went to Afghanistan for two tours during his active duty, per Town & Country. Though not a service member, Jill Biden is also dedicated to the cause, having founded Joining Forces to benefit families, caregivers, and veterans, the outlet added. Her stepson Beau Biden, who died in 2015, was a veteran and Bronze Star recipient who served in Iraq.

Amanda Gorman reading at the inauguration was Jill Biden's idea

When Amanda Gorman read her poetry at Joe Biden's presidential inauguration in January 2021, she "became the youngest poet to write and recite a piece" in the history of the event, according to the Los Angeles Times. The newspaper noted that Gorman was the nation's first youth poet laureate in 2017 and had become the Los Angeles youth poet laureate in 2014. That recitation almost didn't happen, though. Gorman told "Today" in December 2021 that she could have "ghosted" the president.

"When I was told by the inaugural committee that I was going to be the inaugural poet, I danced around in my apartment," she said on the show. "... I was just so overwhelmed with emotion and I remember heading out to D.C. and some random number calling me on my phone. I was like, 'Who's calling me?' And I answer it and it was, you know, President-elect Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden, congratulating me. And I was like, 'Wow, thank goodness I didn't accidentally ghost the President of the United States.'" Jill Biden was the one who suggested Gorman for the role in the inauguration. She saw her do a reading at the Library of Congress and told the inaugural committee to reach out to Gorman, according to the The New York Times.

Jill Biden is the first Italian first lady in American history

Among the other firsts Jill Biden has racked up as first lady, she is also the first Italian-American in the position, according to the Italian Sons and Daughters of America. The organization explained that her grandfather Domenico Giacoppo came over to the United States in 1900 from Sicily, along with his parents. Biden told the US World Herald in 2020 that her family's original name was changed to Jacobs. She also told the outlet that Sundays were the days her family enjoyed authentic food from the old country. "My grandmother cooked traditional Italian dishes for Sunday dinner," she said. "We would go to my grandparents' house every Sunday because her cooking was the best. ... It was at their house that I made homemade tomato sauce for the first time."

Although she is now a couple generations removed from her Sicilian roots, that didn't stop her relatives still living there from celebrating Joe's presidency and Jill's role as first lady. Though they've never met, Jill's distant cousin Caterina Giacoppo hopes she can make her dinner sometime if she visits, the cousin told Forbes. "I'm so happy. I invite her to Gesso [Sicily], I really hope she comes to visit me. When and if she will be here, I will make for her platefuls of meatballs with tomato sauce, lasagne, grilled meats and sausages of all kinds, and we will eat together."